‘If a thing ain’t broke don’t fix it !’

published on January 16, 2012
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

Author and writer Rajiv Malhotra has embarked on a new path with his endorsement of Hindu Christian Dialogue. Readers will recall that he is the author (along with co author Aravindan Neelakandan) of the book Breaking India which deals with the various dangers facing India, such as terrorism, maoism and Inculturation by the Catholic Church. The present writer has criticised Shri Malhotra’s move to the new agenda of Hindu Christian Dialogue as an encouragement to the process of Inculturation. This is a process by which the Catholic Church in India and elsewhere seeks to subvert the native traditions by appearing to dialogue with them but in reality the goal is to subvert them and thereby assist in the process of Conversion. This process had already started as early as  the arrival of the first missionaries such as Robert di Nobili who came to Tamil Nadu in 1605 and Bishop Caldwell (1814 to 1891) who started the divisive policy of Dravidianism versus Hinduism.  Alongside of  this were the policy of conquest and violence such as the infamous Goa Inquisition of 1560 where the most heinous and murderous violence of torture and mayhem were used to convert the Hindu population. It must be remembered that Francis Xavier was among the circle which initiated the Inquisition in Europe itself.

The goal of Conversion has not changed although the methods may have. Many well known writers in India have already noticed that the Hindu Christian Dialogue is encouraged by the Church as the beginnings of Inculturation which it is hoped will eventually lead to Conversion. Inculturation is the process by which the Church meshes with the native cultures, not with a view to integrate with them but to eventually subvert them and convert them. One of the latest and contemporary agents of this process is Francis Xavier Clooney , Jesuit priest and scholar and professor of Divinity at Harvard University, USA (See George Thundiparambil’s article ‘Old Poisoned Wine in new Tetra Packs’ in Vigilonline; Radha Rajan’s articles in Vigilonline and ‘Inculturation and Indigenisation’ by Tamizhchelvan in Bharata Bharati and the interview given by Swami Devananda Sarasvati to journalist Rajeev Srinivasan and can be viewed on the home page of Bharata Bharati).

Dr. Clooney is a  soft spoken, well spoken, polite and courteous individual who does not appear before an audience with his message of Conversion blazoned on his forehead. His modus operandi is intellectual discussion (he is a scholar) and he has impressed many Hindus by his study of Vaishnavite Hinduism, although some of his attempts at comparative study of the religious figures of Christianity and Hinduism are somewhat questionable. His most recent success is his alliance with Rajiv Malhotra and the start of Hindu Christian Dialogue as seen in the recent event at the University of Massachussetts (USA). The present writer has criticised this event in the article ‘Francis Xavier Clooney : Building the Trojan Horse’ (Haindava Keralam, 20/12/2011). Shri Malhotra has further emphasised his intentions by his article in Huffington Post and which again the present writer has criticised in the article ‘ Rajiv Malhotra Endorses Hindu Christian Dialogue’ (in Bharata Bharati & kalyan97 blogspot and Sookta Sumana blogspot).

The Massachussetts event was aimed primarily by Shri Malhotra for his talk on his new book Being Different (2011). Fair enough, since every writer wishes to get the maximum publicity for his book. Malhotra outlines the differences between Hinduism and non Indic faiths in order to make the point that one has to respect all religions as simply being different but equal (not a particularly novel idea since the Hindu gurus in the diaspora make a similar point that all religions are to be respected, although they draw attention to the similarities rather than the differences). Malhotra wants to highlight the differences, although by the time of his entry into the new found Hindu Christian Dialogue, he has begun to talk about the Divine with its different ‘lilas’ (once again closer to the Hindu gurus in the West than he is willing to admit . See his article in Huffington Post ‘Difference With Mutual Respect : A New Kind of Hindu Christian Dialogue’ 12/27/2011).

Shri Malhotra claimes to use the ancient Hindu method of Purva Paksha of the Hindu science of debate (Tarka Shastra). The present writer has criticised his use of the method in that he truncates it. In classical Purva Paksha there are three movements: 1. statement of the adversary’s position, 2.REFUTATION of the adversary’s position, 3. Statement of one’s own position. Malhotra stops short of REFUTATION and therefore does not ‘defeat’ the opponent as did the great Hindu philosophers of the past, notably Adi Shankara (788-820 A.D.) Adi Shankara’s Digvijay tour of India led to the ‘defeat’ of his opponents and ensured the continued survival of Hinduism. It was not a process of accomodation of the adversary (For more details see the article by this writer ‘Purva Paksha and the Siren Song of Hindu Christian Dialogue’ in Haindava Keralam, 27/12/2011).

The question arises as to why Shri Malhotra stops short of ‘defeating’ the opponent, in this case Fr. Clooney who was present at the event and who expects to further interact with Malhotra in similar events. Malhotra himself has said publicly that he intends to use such events as models of Hindu Christian Dialogue both in the diaspora and in India.  It is obvious then that the reason that Shri Malhotra stops short of ‘defeating’ the opponent is that he is hamstrung by his new found committment to Hindu Christian Dialogue where he must needs give an opening to his adversary. He uses the word ‘dialogue’ in the popular sense of an invitation to interact with each other in friendly exchange of ideas, without seeking to ‘defeat’ or render useless the opponent’s arguments. The word ‘dialogue’ in Western thought is best known for its origins in the Platonic Dialogues, where Socrates engages in a relentless peeling away of his interlocutor’s ignorance. He does not accomodate. This is quite different from our present (and Malhotra’s) use of the word.

There is a second reason for Malhotra’s venture into Hindu Christian Dialogue. Like many diasporic Hindus and the contemporary Westernised Hindu within India itself, there is a downgrading of the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths. These have been the mainstay of Hinduism down the ages and failure to see this and trying to chip away at it, does not benefit Hindus. Senior journalist Sandhya Jain has put this very well:

” India has hitherto withstood the missionary assault because of the devotion of the ordinary citizen, especially the denizens of villages and tribal hamlets, to their ancestral faith as represented by the grama devatas, kula devatas, and sthana devatas who form a protective shield around their devotees and save them from harm. Then, there are the great gods in the larger temples and peeths and pilgrimages which gird the whole country in a protective grid, along with the spiritual strength and leadership of the traditional acharyas, gurus, maths and so on.”

(Sandhya Jain ‘ Inter-faith Dialogue: What’s in it for Hindus ?’  in Bharat Bharati, Jan.12, 2012 & also in http:kalyan97blogspot).

In Malhotra’s 2004 essay in Sulekha.com called ‘The Westernised side of my background’ he pointedly refers to the ignorance of the traditional acharyas in Western scripture and thought. He, therefore in his new avatar as cheerleader for Hindu Christian Dialogue, seeks to remove this deficiency in a  knowledgeable way with the West, in this case with Fr. Clooney (The present writer has argued that the traditional acharyas are not expected to be familiar with Shakespeare and Milton or the thought of the West. They have expert knowledge of their own tradition which they have upheld down the centuries and will continue to do so at present and in the future ( See ‘ Does Rajiv Malhotra need Purva Paksha for Hindu Christian Dialogue’ ? in Bharat Bharati & kalyan97blogspot).

Now, the writer is free to engage in his own adventure of ideas, but to present it as a substitute for the traditional acharyas is the height of folly and hubris. This move  must be actively resisted by sensible Hindus. The strength of Hindu civilisation is its decentralised religious institutions and a multiplicity of religious texts and sampradayas. To seek to undermine them by the new adventure (misadventure !) called Hindu Christian Dialogue is to surreptitiously introduce the dictatorial approach of the monotheistic religions. Shri Malhotra has disingenuously claimed that he is not interested in ‘converting’ (read ‘defeating’) Fr. Clooney but is simply using the occasion of a Dialogue event to reach Hindu audiences.

This can be done in a straightforward manner by talks on his book Being Different. He does not need the presence of Dr. Clooney to validate this, nor does he need to don the mantle of the new (and improved Vivekananda) which the Jesuit priest conferred on him during the Massachussetts event.

There is a saying in the Western world : IF A THING AIN’T BROKE, DONT FIX IT !  This pithy saying is applicable here. The aam admi and the traditional acharyas and gurus and maths have done very well in the past and will continue to do so. They should not be tinkered with. Attempts to downgrade them are not beneficial to Hindus. There is no need to invent new ways of doing things when something is already working well. Diasporic Hindus can engage in the adventure of ideas to keep themselves occupied and if they want to engage in intellectual activity. They should by no means be allowed to invade the space of the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths, for that is the Catholic Church’s agenda and it must be resolutely resisted.

(Dr. Vijay Rajiva is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training is in Philosophy, Political Science, Political Economy and History).

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